Spendthrift Grounds for Divorce in North Carolina

By Mary Jane Freeman

North Carolina does not take marital fault into account when granting a divorce, but it does consider wrongdoing by a spouse when awarding alimony. When you request support payments in a divorce proceeding in the state, you have several fault grounds from which to choose. One of them is reckless spending. In North Carolina, the law considers a spouse who spends money profusely and imprudently to be a spendthrift. If your spouse's spending habits resulted in the destruction or waste of marital assets, you may be entitled to alimony under state law.

North Carolina does not take marital fault into account when granting a divorce, but it does consider wrongdoing by a spouse when awarding alimony. When you request support payments in a divorce proceeding in the state, you have several fault grounds from which to choose. One of them is reckless spending. In North Carolina, the law considers a spouse who spends money profusely and imprudently to be a spendthrift. If your spouse's spending habits resulted in the destruction or waste of marital assets, you may be entitled to alimony under state law.

Grounds

North Carolina is a no-fault state. This means divorcing spouses do not have to blame each other to obtain a divorce in the state; any claims of wrongful or bad spending habits are irrelevant at this stage. Instead, North Carolina law simply requires spouses to live separate and apart for one year. Living under the same roof but in two separate bedrooms does not count. Once the one-year separation requirement is met, either spouse may file for divorce in the state. North Carolina also permits spouses to divorce based on incurable insanity, but this ground is rarely used due to its specialized nature. Once you submit your petition, including any requests for alimony, the divorce process begins. You have the option of requesting temporary alimony, paid while divorce is pending; permanent alimony, paid after divorce is granted; or both.

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Dependency

Before awarding alimony in North Carolina, the court must determine that you are a dependent spouse. To qualify under state law, you must substantially depend on your spouse for support and maintenance or be in substantial need of support and maintenance from him. In other words, you must prove to the court's satisfaction that you are unable to support yourself and maintain the standard of living established during the marriage without your spouse's help. This may be established in a number of ways. For example, you may be dependent on your spouse because he is the sole or primary breadwinner, you work part-time or in a less profitable career than your spouse, or you serve as your children's primary caretaker. If your spouse is unable to provide for his own needs as well as pay the support you need, the court will not award alimony.

Factors for Support

Once the court determines you are entitled to alimony as a dependent spouse, it will move on to deciding the amount and duration of the alimony award. To make this decision and ensure the award is equitable, the court must look at 16 factors outlined in state law, including marital misconduct. Under North Carolina law, reckless spending falls under the category of marital misconduct as well as the destruction, concealment, diversion or waste of assets. Examples may include spending money on a gambling habit, unnecessary shopping sprees, jewelry or luxury vacations for a mistress, or hiding money in a secret bank account or with third parties. To be admissible as evidence, the spendthrift behavior must have occurred during the marriage and not after you and your spouse separated.

Additional Considerations

If your claim for alimony is successful, the court may order payment in the form of a lump sum, periodic payments or transfer of property to you, such as the vacation home. The court may also limit alimony to a specific time period or until either spouse dies or you cohabit with, or marry, someone else. Typically, the longer the marriage, the longer alimony lasts. Generally, alimony is modifiable if circumstances substantially change at a later date; for example, due to job loss or disability. Although you may be entitled to alimony, the court may choose to deny payment if you have been unfaithful. Under North Carolina law, an otherwise deserving spouse is barred from receiving alimony if she engaged in illicit sexual behavior, or adultery, during the marriage. However, the court will disregard the infidelity if your spouse forgave the behavior; for example, by staying married for a period of time after discovering the affair. If both spouses cheated, the law leaves awarding or denying alimony up to the court's discretion.

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References

Related articles

North Carolina Statutes on Marital Misconduct

Marital misconduct is unacceptable behavior committed by a spouse during a marriage in North Carolina. A spouse may use marital misconduct as a reason for a legal separation and for postseparation support -- which is awarded during proceedings and before a final alimony order. Marital misconduct may also influence the court's decisions with regard to alimony.

Family Law on Alimony and Physical Abuse

No-fault divorce went nationwide in 2010 when New York became the last state to recognize grounds such as irreconcilable differences and irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. Some states, such as Florida, recognize only no-fault grounds. It's no longer necessary to prove your spouse did something wrong in order to get a divorce, no matter where you live. However, this doesn’t mean that marital misconduct, such as physical abuse, will not affect issues of alimony, even in pure no-fault states.

Alimony Laws in North Carolina on Extramarital Affairs

North Carolina is one of the most unforgiving states in the country when it comes to adultery. At the time of publication, it is one of only 32 states that still recognize fault-based divorce grounds of any kind. It not only considers adultery a ground for divorce, but it has passed special legislation to address adultery’s effect on alimony issues.

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